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Aerospace

Software giant Hancom joins space race with satellite launch

The group's second-generation management kicks off with the eldest daughter as the CEO of Hancom Inc.

By Sep 02, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hancom InSpace's satellite video analytics platform InStation
Hancom InSpace's satellite video analytics platform InStation

South Korean software and ICT conglomerate Hancom Group will be the first private company in the country to launch a micro-satellite, or a satellite weighing less than 100 kilograms, into space.  

The group said on Sept. 2 during its aerospace business conference that it will launch Sejong-1, an earth observation satellite, in the first half of 2022. Hancom Group will use the data collected from the satellite to expand its ICT services in the agriculture and disaster management sectors.

The new project will be led by the space and aviation company Hancom InSpace Co, which the group acquired last September. Hancom InSpace is headed by Choi Myung-jin, a former researcher at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

Hancom InSpace CEO Choi Myung-jin
Hancom InSpace CEO Choi Myung-jin

Hancom InSpace is known for having the most advanced technology in South Korea for analyzing drone videos and setting up satellite earth stations. Hancom Group said it is strengthening its presence in the global video data market, which is projected to reach 100 trillion won ($86 billion) by 2024.

The Sejong-1 is a micro-satellite weighing only about 10.8 kg. Its length is 20cm, breadth is 10cm and height is 30cm. The satellite will be able to make about 12-14 full orbits per day around the Earth.

Hancom Group will be making an initial investment of 5 billion won ($4.3 million) to set up the infrastructure to launch the satellite. An average cost per micro-satellite is known to be around 500 million won ($431,000). The group said that it will be launching the micro-satellites every six months to have five units operating by 2023 and more than 50 units in the long run.

Hancom added that the breakeven point from the investment will come in about three years.

The satellite launch will be done in collaboration with the US-based space-to-cloud data and analytics company Spire Global Inc., which will play also play an active role in both the development and the operation of the satellites. Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be a partner in setting up the ground stations, while Naver Cloud Corp. will jointly launch a cloud ground station service.

HANCOM’S SECOND-GENERATION MANAGEMENT KICKS OFF

The announcement to expand the group’s aerospace business was made by Hancom Inc.’s chief executive Kim Yeon-soo. Having been appointed as CEO last month, the aerospace conference marked her first official appearance as chief executive. 

Hancom Group's heir apparent and Hancom Inc. CEO Kim Yeon-soo
Hancom Group's heir apparent and Hancom Inc. CEO Kim Yeon-soo

Earlier this year in May, the new CEO purchased 9.4% of Hancom Inc.’s shares, including all of those held by her father and the current group chairman Kim Sang-cheol. Kim Yeon-soo is the eldest daughter of the group chairman.

The younger Kim is reported to have led the acquisition of Hancom InSpace last year. Hancom Group under her leadership is also eyeing expansion into the fast-growing robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and mobility sectors.

“The new CEO personally has close ties with the top management of big tech companies like Naver and Kakao. By expanding Hancom’s tech business and entering new business segments, she will maximize the group’s valuation, which is considered to be low relative to its strong performance,” said an investment banking source.

Write to See-eun Lee and Joo-wan Kim at see@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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